Filing a police report in the aftermath of a car accident is usually unnecessary in most states unless there’s damage totaling a certain dollar amount, serious injuries incurred, or death. However, there are less clear-cut scenarios; what happens in cases where you get involved in a minor fender-bender in an underground parking lot with no witnesses or security cameras? What if the police fail to respond to such an accident, meaning no accident report is ever created?
These are some of the numerous scenarios where you may find yourself having to deal with an accident alone, at least initially. For more details on such scenarios, it’s always best to seek legal counsel.
In most jurisdictions, you can file a claim with an insurance company without a police report. The same scenario applies when you have to file a lawsuit against an at-fault party if you’re the victim of a car accident.
Filing a Claim Without a Police Report
Filing a claim with an insurance company or pursuing a lawsuit against another individual or entity are separate legal processes that can proceed without a police report. While the latter can certainly speed things up, it is not a prerequisite.
However, this doesn’t mean that police reports are without merit. On the contrary, they can be crucial in many cases where the claimant’s case is somewhat flimsy. For example, if the victim’s claims about the accident are called into question, a police report can help to lend credence to their claims.
Police reports, by their very nature, are supposed to be objective. This means that they are considered to contain only the pertinent facts of an accident and not the opinions of the involved parties. The first police officer at the scene is usually the one to create the report. Their report will include the basic facts like the vehicle identification of all parties involved, the visible physical evidence at the scene, and any relevant information. This report will also contain the accounts of all involved parties and any witnesses. The officer will sign off the report with a brief personal statement of opinion regarding the accident and findings thus far.
Making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit because of a car accident can become a protracted process if the claimant and the alleged at-fault party have different accounts of the accident. It then becomes incumbent upon the courts to determine the veracity of each party’s version of events. In such instances, a police report could be the difference that helps to apportion blame accordingly. For instance, police reports tend to contain photos of the physical state of the vehicles involved in the accident and other things like skid marks. Such pictures could prove to be pivotal in corroborating one party’s side of the story.
In most states, filing a police report for minor accidents involving fender benders is not required. However, if such a minor accident results in damage worth a certain amount, the law may require filing a police report. For instance, the state of Florida requires filing a police report for all accidents that cause property damage worth $500 and above. The same is true if there are complaints of physical injuries or if someone dies. In some other states, the threshold for filing a police report could be as high as $2000 worth of property damage in addition to factors like injuries or deaths.
What Happens When There is No Police Report?
Sometimes, there may not be a police report despite the severity of the car accident. A good example is when an accident is seemingly minor. However, you may have sustained injuries that were not immediately apparent but became clear later on. In such cases, it becomes challenging to file a claim or a lawsuit for damages if there is no official documentation, like a police report, of your injuries. After all, it can always be reasoned that you sustained such injuries elsewhere and are simply looking for an easy payout. Knowing about the laws of the jurisdiction in which you live will help you avoid such inconvenient situations. That’s why it helps to seek legal counsel immediately following an accident, regardless of how serious it is. This will help you to know your legal options and any possible ramifications.
If you proceed to file a lawsuit or insurance claim in the absence of a police report, it then becomes your responsibility to prove the other party’s negligence as the cause of the accident–the so-called burden of proof. An experienced lawyer can help with this. However, you’ll need to have gathered compelling evidence to add weight to your case.
All in all, a police report is not essential to file a lawsuit or an insurance claim. However, it can be the difference between winning and losing a claim if present.